Helping the helpers

Snow or no snow, it’s becoming that time of year when resources get stretched a bit thin. Summertime employment comes to an end, hours of darkness outweigh hours of daylight, temperatures drop and the holiday season arrives. 

For some, it takes a helping hand to make it through the months ahead.

All that makes the latest activities benefiting the Homer Community Food Pantry perfectly timed.

For the second year, “Empty Bowls Soup Luncheon” will combine the efforts of local restaurants and potters to give the pantry a boost. 

“This is a nation-wide fundraising effort for local pantries,” said Diana Jeska, executive director of the Homer Community Food Pantry. “It is being really fueled by potters because potter Ruby Haigh stepped up and coordinated all of the potters that would make bowls. If we didn’t have that, it wouldn’t be possible.”

The luncheon will be held at the Homer United Methodist Church from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday. The menu includes soup, bread and dessert. A $30 ticket buys lunch plus a handmade bowl. A second option of $10 includes lunch only. Tickets are available at the Homer Bookstore and at the door. 

“The soups are coming from 15-20 restaurants,” said Tracy Asselin, who, along with Sherry Stead, is coordinating the luncheon.

Ruby Haigh is coordinating the potters who are donating an estimated 175 bowls.

“Last year we had 110, maybe 115 bowls, so this is a huge increase,” said Asselin. “The bowls sold out last year in about 20 minutes.”

This year’s Haunted Hickory also proved a windfall for the pantry.

More than 1,141 visitors participated in the local Halloween celebration that attracts visitors from across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond and doubles as a food drive for the pantry. In its 23rd year, the popular event resulted in a record amount of donated food items.

“I just received word that this year’s Haunted Hickory raised 3,160 pounds, or 1.58 tons, of food for the Homer (Community) Food Pantry,” said Ensign David E. Parker. “This is the largest collection ever donated by a Haunted Hickory, and is a 150 percent increase from last year’s collection. The Homer Pantry also said it was the largest single donation ever received by the organization.” 

The generous outpouring brought a smile to Jeska’s face.

“That is the most we have ever gotten from them. We’ve been in the area of 2,000 pounds, but never 3,000. That is really amazing. Wonderful,” said Jeska. “You know how the holidays are. This really does help.”

News also has been received that the pantry has been selected a recipient of a “Hunger Is” grant.

“The Homer Community Food Pantry is receiving a $1,000 grant from our Hunger Is initiative,” Joe Kadish, communications assistant of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, said in an email to the Homer News.

The Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation launched the Hunger Is initiative in April 2014 in an effort to fight childhood hunger in the United States. In-store fundraisers at more than 1,300 Safeway stores and additional funds generated online through Hunger Is helped fund the launch. To date, more than $1.3 million has been awarded to 198 neighborhood charities throughout the country. 

“I am honored to help bring attention to Hunger Is and increase public awareness of the problem of childhood hunger right here in America, and I am thrilled to see how swiftly we are responding to the issue at the most local levels with the award of (more than) $1.3 million in grants,” Academy Award-nominated actress and Hunger Is ambassador Viola Davis said in a press release issued by the partnering foundations. 

“Millions of children go hungry every day in the United States. I was one of those children and I pledge to tell and re-tell my story until we have eradicated childhood hunger across the nation,”  she said.

The grant will support efforts already in place at the food pantry. “We provide snacks to the schools, so I told them this fits perfectly,” said Jeska. 

For more information about Hunger Is, visit

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at